(*Music by Booker T Jones, lyrics by William Bell, Gloâs favourite version performed by Cream)
I am beginning to wonder whether this may become my familyâs anthem.Â As if the financial debt this Government has already hung round my childrenâs unknowing necks wasnât a bleak enough prospect for them, I am now reeling from the sobering fact that their secondary school education is imminently to be mangled through a rapid-response experiment described by an Edyookayshun Big-Wig as âthe next right challengeâ
It appears that the issue of a school which is failing to improve despite having been placed under Special Measures must be addressed, a solution immediately found and fully implemented by September 2010 and it was for this reason I sat in a school hall packed to the rafters with hundreds of other parents keen to hear from a panel of sharp-suited Government, OFSTED and LEA experts exactly how this would affect my childrenâs education.Â âGo ahead,â I thought to myself, âmake my day.â
The details of Â this ânext right challengeâ looked suspiciously likeÂ a fait accomplis thinly disguised as a âconsultationâ session, during which the experts promised to answer questions from parents and to listen to and âtake on boardâ their views.Â At the end of the session, the vast audience of hand-wringing mummies and daddies was left in no doubt as to the expertsâ preferred option and it was stressed, both verbally and by the use of the ubiquitous Powerpoint presentation, that DOING NOTHING was not an option at all.Â All the mummies and daddies were invited to submit views in writing within a month and told that the final decision will be made in the New Year.Â So there you have it; unless nice pink pigs really do sprout wings and take joyfully to the sky, my childrenâs school is to become part of something called a National Challenge Federation.
Apparently âThe goal of the National Challenge is for every school to be a good school. The National Challenge commitment is that by 2011 there are no schools where fewer than 30% of pupils achieve at least 5 good GCSEs including English and maths. (…) Federation, which can be combined with a Trust, involves two or more schools coming together under one governing body and sharing the benefits of partnership, including shared teachers, resources and economies of scale. In the case of National Challenge, federation can address weaknesses in the National Challenge schoolâs leadership by allowing the strong school to take control of the shared governing body. …â
(Ah-ha.Â That explains the break-neck speed with which this ânext right challengeâ is being introduced; Ed Balls wants it âsortedâ by 2011 and given that a Labour Government may not be in charge of steering this countryâs education system into further drastic reform, he wants it âsortedâ PDQ.)
In response to some spirited questioning from agitated parents, a man from OFSTED and Big Wig both repeatedly cited a solitary example of how a Challenge Federation is working thrillingly well in a nearby city. Â Furthermore, no firm data regarding the success of such schemes could be produced, as it appears itâs all part of a radical new-thinking approach and in its early stages but the phrases âdue diligenceâ, âbest practiceâ and âfit for purposeâ were all soothingly employed, so all the worried mummies and daddies calmed downâ¦..
I am describing the forthcoming overhaul of my childrenâs education for just one reason; it isnât my childrenâs school that is under Special Measures.Â It is another secondary school, one with which my childrenâs school must join in a National Challenge Federation within which all the children of the two schools must make the best of âthe next right challengeâ and hope to come out with a few facts and figures lodged in their capable brains and a sprinkling of GCSEs to boot.Â Â The âkey characteristicsâ of this Â ânext right challengeâ include the governing body to be able to âdeploy available resources to maximum effect across the two schools; identify and implement changes to staff deployment and curriculum delivery to effect improvements in educational outcomes for students across the two schools; act in the interests of both schools, ensuring that standards are improved in each; share best practice; build upon the strengths of (School A) and use these to support and sustain improvement at (School B); provide opportunities for staff to gain a broader range of experience by working with young people in both schools.â
My childrenâs school is currently a good school, not wonderful, not outstanding, but good.Â I firmly believe it is the best of the frankly sorry bunch available locally and for that reason I have spent the last 4 yearsÂ plodding patiently and repeatedly through the tedious application process to get them both places there.Â What it will be like in a year or in two’s time is anyoneâs guess.Â I donât know whether implemented changes to staff deployment and curriculum delivery will actually effect improvements in educational outcomes for students across the two schools and, I suspect, neither does anyone else.Â Weâll all just have to suck it and see.Â I expect Iâll find out how this latest experiment work has worked for my familyÂ at GCSE-result time in 2012.Â So good luck to them all, pupils, teachers and governing body alike; I hope it all goes swimmingly well and all the dear little children benefit from the bullet-pointed aims and objectives of this preferred option.
Sorry, Iâve got to go now – Clint Eastwoodâs just arrived waving a Magnum .44 at me and asking me if I feel lucky…..